Perhaps you’ve heard about Rihanna’s 777 tour, which ended in New York yesterday. The platinum-selling pop star, along with an entourage of 250 folk, including handlers, contest winners, journalists and bloggers (there’s a difference) embarked on a whirlwind tour aboard a Boeing 777, hitting seven cites in seven days. This tour, likely the marketing brainchild of an enthusiastic guru who thought, “What could go wrong?!”, was done to promote Rihanna’s latest album, “Unapologetic”.
The more popular stories from #Rihannaplane include descriptions of it as a “cruel social experiment”, a “Vietnam” and “mutiny”, an act usually reserved for ships, but I suppose any vessel will do. Of course, there’s some hyperbole here. We are talking about a group of writers left with nothing to report on and in need of meeting a word count by deadline. But if the actual stories from the plane are as they say—and there are consistent threads among them—then the way those invited on the 777 tour were treated was horrible.
Unfortunately, the gripes of the journalists have been treated as a bit of a joke by bloggers and especially by many readers. Yes, I know, that in many circles journalists are reviled, just slightly less so than lawyers. And there’s a valid 99% claim to be made about the fallacy of expecting sympathy while flying around on a private jumbo jet, racking up stamps on a passport and swilling top shelf champers. But that’s only part of the story. That cushy description was what the tour was to be in theory. In application, reports from the 777 tour sound like it was a gigantic clusterf***k.”
Things started off well, with excited journalists… well, excited, for the once-in-a-lifetime adventure, like “Almost Famous” come to life. The description of the tour harkened back to the days of writing yore, with its better events and better budgets, when journalists actually spent days, maybe even weeks, with an artist before writing a feature on them. These days, a cover story is more like an hour sit-down, if you’re lucky. The 777 tour was a seductive opportunity to relive the heyday. It sounded too good to be true because it was.
Before the seven days were up, the mood of the tour had gone from sky-high to crash landing. The press corps didn’t get a decent night’s sleep, spending just up to four hours a night in the cushy hotels they were promised. The press corp spent more hours waiting on Rihanna, sometimes as she shopped for lingerie, hung out with friends or partied until the wee hours of the night. They waited on buses for hours, in waiting rooms for hours, at the airports for hours, sometimes standing, sometimes without water, which actually worked in their favor as there was nowhere to pee.
It’s unacceptable to treat people that way (though it does make the case for why entertainment interns need to be taught to deal with unexpected BS as it’s part of the requirement for having an actual industry job). Whether you like journalists or bloggers at all, understand if any other group of working professionals— accountants, teachers, or hospitality workers — were treated this way (like no water?! No place to urinate?! Really?!), there would be mass outrage.
To make matters worse, Rihanna didn’t speak to the press between Day One and Day Seven of the tour, which makes no sense. They were invited to work, then not given the basic necessities—like an interview, sometimes not even WiFi—to do so. At one point, things were so bad, that journalists began chanting (only half-joking and perhaps delirious), “Save our jobs!” and “Just one quote!” in an attempt to lure Rihanna out of first class to give interviews.
At Rolling Stone, Jeff Rosenthal explained:
Our coping tactics [are] way funnier than the lazy jokes people make at our expense. (No, we didn’t expect to hang out with Rihanna and gossip about Drake.) We simply felt there should be a reason for us being on this plane with her and seeing these seven shows, and there apparently is none.
By the last day of the tour, after tales of the problems aboard the #rihannaplane began picking up steam in the press and social media, Rih finally addressed the group. She was seemingly unaware of how disgusted they were with the experience. “I would f–in’ do this again!” she told them before apologizing for being absent most of the tour.
She added, ”Usually I would be back here partying my balls off for y’all but I really had to pay attention and take care of my health because I’m on the plane all the time.”
That was bullsh— just like the rest of the disjointed, disorganized 777 tour. I hope that despite her (likely false anyway) enthusiasm to do it all again that Rih et al. just don’t. The journalists—and contest winners—who were shorted on this one deserve your sympathy, but they don’t deserve to go through that week-long hell again.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk